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Ex-Greenwich Pastor Admits Obstructing Justice

GREENWICH, Conn. – The former pastor of a Greenwich church pleaded guilty to obstructing a federal investigation Thursday, four years after he was accused of maintaining secret bank accounts with church funds and using the money to pay personal expenses.

Michael Moynihan, 59, admitted in a federal court in New Haven that he lied to federal investigators about the fraud in 2006. When sentenced, Moynihan faces a maximum imprisonment of 20 years and a fine of up to $250,000, according to David B. Fein, U.S. attorney for Connecticut. Moynihan was the pastor at St. Michael the Archangel Parish, a Roman Catholic church.

In a letter to parishioners, current pastor Monsignor J. Peter Cullen said, “We are encouraged that the U.S. attorney’s office has brought the case to resolution, and we pray that it brings a measure of closure and healing to our parish after a long and difficult ordeal.”

From 2002 to 2006, Moynihan deposited more than $2 million into two separate accounts and used $300,000 to pay his personal credit card bills. For years, Moynihan had denied the existence of the accounts and how the money was spent, until confronted by the Diocese of Bridgeport. In an effort to prove he was using the money for the parish, Moynihan gave accountants letters falsely signed by two people who said they had received funds from him.

From 1993 to 2007, Moynihan served as an employee of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport at St. Michael’s. As pastor, he was responsible for making sure all money given to the church was used for the benefit of the parish. He was also responsible for informing the Parish Finance Council of all bank accounts.

In 2002, despite being asked by the Diocese of Bridgeport to maintain only one operating bank account, a building fund account established by Moynihan’s predecessor was still being used. Moynihan then opened a bank account at Greenwich Bank & Trust in the name of St. Michael’s Church in 2004. Neither account was reported to the diocese.

Two years later, in 2006, when the FBI requested information from the diocese as part of a criminal investigation, Moynihan did not disclose the existence of either fund.

“At that time, the result of the financial review, found financial mismanagement, off-the-books accounts, and other financial improprieties,” Cullen said in a letter. “During the investigation, every effort was made to give Michael Moynihan time to account for his expenditures from the off-the-books accounts. Yet, the opportunity was met with obfuscations and denials.”

Bishop William Lori asked for Moynihan’s resignation in January 2007 and later removed his priestly authority, Carol James and Joseph Tranfo, members of the St. Michael Roman Catholic Church Corp., said in a letter to St. Michael’s parishioners Thursday.

In a December 2010 interview, after knowing a federal grand jury was investigating the use of parish funds for personal benefit, Moynihan met with FBI special agents to tell them how the funds in the undisclosed accounts were used. In discussing the letters that were used to “prove” he was using the money for the parish, he told the agents that he “had not forged a signature on a letter although he knew that he had signed another person’s signature without authority to do so,” according to a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office.

In the letter released Thursday, Cullen asked parishioners to pray for Moynihan and expressed his gratitude. “As your pastor, I am extremely grateful for the support you have shown me and for the understanding you have brought to this painful chapter in our history."

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